Can Independents change the shape of local politics?

*This article does not endorse any candidate (all are welcome to say their piece on Bude & Beyond).

When Bude and Stratton Town Council held an election for Bude Ward on 12th December, the turnout was 68.8% and local vet, Tom O’Sullivan, was duly elected.

68.8% might not look like very much, yet it is higher than many turnouts for local elections. In 2018, if you look at the Electoral Commission figures for many areas, turnouts are more likely to be in the 30-40% range, which is far from good, and far from democratic.

Such as the problem been in the past that many councils took to co-opting members rather than holding elections at all, which is really not good for democracy. Now, a collection of independent people are collaborating to make this situation change, to make local government for appealing, more accountable and transparent, more accessible, and, frankly, more interesting.

Independents standing for May elections

Independent locals from the Bude-Stratton area are standing for election on May 6 with a pledge to form a community-led town council that unites, supports and responds to the hopes and needs of all residents and businesses. Effectively, injecting new blood into local politics.

Inspired by the community’s response to the Covid pandemic, Bude-Stratton Community Alliance (BSCA) was formed by locals who believe the town council needs to be more representative of the entire community if it is to face the challenges of the future. It warmly welcomes full participation from anyone in the
wider Bude-area community, and forms part of a wave of community groups across the south-west and throughout England.

‘Although it’s been a very difficult time, the pandemic has shown the Bude community at its absolute best,’ said Amanda Tame, a BSCA supporter who set up the Bude-area Quarantine Support Group last year. ‘We want to turn that positive, supportive energy into a force for good for all in the Bude area.’

Amanda Tame

With more than enough supporters to contest all 18 town-council seats, BSCA is a non- party-political alliance of independents with no manifesto. Instead, the group has a set of core beliefs and values, with a ‘top priority to listen to the community and prioritise measures that will support its health, wellbeing and happiness.’

Siân Dearing, a young mother from Poughill, said: ‘We want the council to be the positive, supportive heart of the community, creating a dynamic, inclusive atmosphere in which we all work together to make things better for everyone.’
Meeting the needs of future generations will be given equal importance to those of the current generation, said Siân. ‘We need to look after Bude for our children, whether that’s by dealing with climate change, supporting activities and jobs for young people, or safeguarding the biodiversity and beauty of our countryside and coastline.’

Siân Dearing

The group has attracted a wide range of ages, backgrounds and occupations, including community business founders, local teachers, a charity CEO, community-minded activists and volunteers, and current town councillors. Candidates agree to a Ways of Working pledge that commits them to work with integrity for the community and with the community.

‘We believe councils should instinctively say: “Yes, how can we help?”,’ said Martin Dorey, author and founder of Bude-based charity, The 2 Minute Foundation. ‘And we think councillors should represent the community to the council, not the other way round.’ (Ed’s note – I can’t get the Amazon Prime series ‘New Amsterdam’ out of my head but it is a great approach).

 

Martin Dorey

BSCA holds a weekly Zoom meeting on Monday evenings and encourages anyone who wants to get involved or stand for the council to get in touch via its website at bsca.uk or by email to info@bsca.uk.

As the Flatpack Democracy website says:

 

Going back to the old ways in post-pandemic Britain? No thanks.

In pandemic Britain many people have discovered new ways to help their communities. Why not make working together for the benefit of all the residents permanent?

Since 2013 the Flatpack Democracy movement has shown that, by standing as a group of independent local councillors working closely together, people all over the country can and do steer their local councils to thrive and prosper, democratically.

Now, more than ever, we have the chance to refocus our local councils on what really matters to us and our neighbours. With many local elections postponed until 2021 we’ve got time to get prepared. Flatpack Democracy is a practical guide and inspiration for you to get going. 

Tell us your thoughts. How do you see post-pandemic Bude & Stratton?

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